Jan 29, 2017

our bare hearts

our bare hearts
(c) rabbi menachem creditor

signs amidst baggage claims
hijabs and yarmulkes, megaphones and pizzas
lawmakers and preachers,
images everywhere
flashes on-screen
reflected in my overwhelmed eyes

my friends are everywhere
trying to put out
wildfires with their bare hearts
trying to counter
scattershot hatred with boundless love.

i lift up my eyes
to the mountains...

I beg You God, that angels surround
detained children, fractured families
my dehumanized cousins
alone, threatened by powerful ugliness

I beg You, God: tell me this isn't happening
that my world isn't being ravaged
by a new Pharoah and his magicians

I'm begging, God.
Tell me this isn't real.

And, God,
if You can't tell me this,
tell me something else:
What must we do to make it better
before it's too late?

Yes, God, we hear You.
It's always been the same answer,
though our pain feels different this time.
We know (it's just so damn hard to remember)
that there's only one answer:

Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love.

Love deeper.
Love bigger.
Love stronger.
Love wiser.
Love freer.
Love fiercer.

God. Please.
Grant us more Holy Love.
Wake us from despair,
that we might see You
in each other's eyes
once again.


Jan 23, 2017


(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Enough of being defined by others.
I am a patriot who is aggrieved by the actions and attitudes of this new administration.
Women's Reproductive Rights have already been curtailed. Lies from the White House Press Secretary. Staffers paid to applaud at lies and cruelty at a Presidential press conference and at the CIA. The President of my country just today repeating to lawmakers the hateful and baseless claim that "illegals" (even the language is hatred) cost him the popular vote.
An ugly and coordinated media campaign to de-legitimize the largest protest in US history by either rejecting recorded measurements of the immensity of its size or by attacking on of the March's organizers, smearing her as a terrorism-supporter. This on the day after the new administration inflames the fires of war in Palestine and Israel by suggesting (to hardliner "news" organizations) that the US Embassy would move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (a decision EVERY president has known would spark World War III).
I am an American Patriot who will protest in defense of my American convictions. I am a devoted Zionist who is Pro-Palestine. These aren't opposites. These are truths, and we are big enough to hold them all.
External definitions are unworthy of us, and we fall into line at our own peril.
We are ready.
We will march again soon.
We've barely begun.
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Rabbi, Congregation Netivot Shalom
Chair, Rabbis Against Gun Violence (#RAGV)

Scheduling Inquiries: ra@netivotshalom.org or (510) 549-9447 x103

To join Rabbi Creditor's email list, send a blank email to thetisch-subscribe@yahoogroups.com!

Next Steps

Next Steps

(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

A precious student just asked for guidance about taking their next steps. I shared a version of this with them, and thought it might serve others well, as we contemplate our own next steps:
As you consider your next steps as a leader, as a citizen, as a daughter, as a grandfather, as an organizer, as a rabbi, as a friend, as a citizen, do you think you need to live up to an externalized expectation in order to be your best self?
Or can we do the work of tzimtzum (sacred self-moderation), be humble enough to non-judgmentally encounter wisdom that will surround you wherever you are?
Will we be willing (a la Thick Naht Hahn) to be wrong when in conversation, truly being in listening dialog ('shmi'at ha'ozen' in Pirkei Avot) with texts, ideas, and our fellow person?
In short, can you allow yourself the hard work of inner growth? You are a unique emanation of God, and that is enough. You are enough. And so is every other person you'll meet. You are loved, and so are they. Can you learn to love being "your right size," which means that your truths will not be experienced as arrogance? That's a dance few get right, but, as that great wisdom teacher Mr. Rogers z"l once taught, "There's only one you in this wonderful world. You are special."
I offer these questions, these reflections, with full faith in the Love we are and can unleash together.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Rabbi, Congregation Netivot Shalom
Chair, Rabbis Against Gun Violence (#RAGV)

Scheduling Inquiries: ra@netivotshalom.org or (510) 549-9447 x103

To join Rabbi Creditor's email list, send a blank email to thetisch-subscribe@yahoogroups.com!

Jan 20, 2017

Upon Ending my #InaugurationFast

Upon Ending my #InaugurationFast
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Eyes wide open, spirit renewed
I gaze at a sky, somehow
just as blue as yesterday.

Before I end this elective fast
I gaze at Heaven, somehow
assured that there is yet hope.

As I bring this water to my lips
I pray for strength, somehow
knowing the strength is waiting
in eyes and arms and hearts
spread across this wounded home.

I close my eyes,
measure my breath,
offer gratitude,
and accept the task ahead.

May Love be our portion, O Lord.


Jan 18, 2017

Empty Shuls this Shabbat: A Rabbinic Comment on the Inauguration

From Rabbi Creditor: 
Empty Shuls this Shabbat:
A Rabbinic Comment on the Inaugration
Tevet 19, 5777
January 18, 2017

Dear Chevreh,

This is a tricky email to send. While "freedom of the pulpit" is one kind of dance rabbis try to manage, speaking with reverence for a community's diverse political passions in the midst of a deeply troubling American political moment is much, much trickier. 

We are not a politicized shul, not on American politics, not on Israeli politics, not on any topic. A progressive community can take nuanced and varying positions on just about every topic.


We are living in a very complicated moment, one that is above and far beyond conventional conversations about politics, and it would be rabbinic (and, dare I say, communal) malpractice to not engage. And so, I will do my part as sensitively as I can, and ask you to do the same, calling upon the best angels of our natures as we love each other through a harsh American moment.

In short, I'm sharing with you all that if Netivot Shalom is empty this Shabbat morning because members of Netivot Shalom are marching as part of the nationwide response to the Presidential Inauguration, that would be a fulfillment of Isaiah's prophetic call, to "cry with a full throat, without restraint. (Is. 58:1)" 

The peaceful transfer of power is a hallmark of American democracy. Civic engagement and non-violent protest is no less vital to the health and protection of that same American democracy. As Jews, we are called to "seek the welfare of the government, without which neighbors would tear each other apart. (Pirkei Avot)" 

An important article was just published in the Times of Israel, in which I am included as part of the growing American Rabbinic Resistance movement. You can find that article here. I am deeply worried about this American moment, as a Jew, as a father, as an American. That is why I cannot abstain from thoughtful action today. I ask you to consider your own feelings and act accordingly.

Some of us will fast on Friday, an interfaith moment of unity, calling to God for guidance as crude language, attacks on free speech and public health, exalted misogyny and emboldened American White Supremacy (see here and here for more information on the #InaugurationFast). Some of us will march, or join other efforts to resist the threats to American Healthcare & Reproductive Rights, LGBTQ Rights and Racial Equality. We are called to "pray with our legs," as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel modeled 50 years ago in Selma.

And, to be clear, the concern for every other does not mean that Jews in America are immune to the increase in hate crimes that have taken place since the election. Just today, at least 32 Jewish institutions across the United States we targeted in a second wave of bomb threats. (for more information, click here). Please know that Netivot Shalom is in touch with all of the appropriate agencies, and our security taskforce has been working on this with staff and the board. 

My message, dear friends, in sharing this with you in this way, and in connecting it to the emerging American #JewishResistance movement is this: Jews have learned the lessons of the past. We've seen this before. Silence in the face of encroaching hatred is not an option. We must be brave. 

I have recorded a video message, related to this one. You can view it here

Friends, if this is a place of disagreement for you and for me, I ask you to come talk to me. You matter more than politics, and a real relationship, as Pirkei Avot teaches, isn't based on any single thing. A real relationship is bigger than any thing. I have faith in that, and in our capacity to love each other above politics. As Rabbi Brad Hirshfield once wrote, "You don't need to be wrong for me to be right." We can both be right.

With much love, 

Join Our List
CNS Mission Statement

Netivot Shalom invites you to engage in a cross-generational discovery of Jewish inspiration and purpose.

Our community is defined by the values of:
  • Belonging - we believe, as a participatory egalitarian community, that every member has a voice.
  • Learning - we provide introductory and continuing encounters with Jewish wisdom.
  • Ritual - we strive to deepen personal engagement with the sacred.
  • Justice - we embrace Judaism's call to perfect the world.

Cry With Full Throat: Shuls Should be Empty This Shabbat

Jan 12, 2017

#RaisingTorah Update!

From Rabbi Creditor: 
#RaisingTorah Update!
Tevet 13, 5777
January 12, 2017

Dear Chevreh,

What an amazing last week and a half it's been at Netivot Shlaom! 

Since the experience of the Torah falling two Shabbatot ago, we launched our three-pronged #RaisingTorah response: Learning Torah, Strengthening Torah, and Being Torah! Each response has been led by many members of our precious community, and some sweet surprises have also happened. I'm thrilled to share some of them here with you.

Learning Torah Update

(The following list is so full of energy, I got dizzy just compiling it!)

This past Shabbat featured a wonderful Introduction to Mussar by Marilyn Paul during Shabbat dinner. Rabbinic Intern Lisa Rappaport recorded a YouTube reflection on Pirkei AvotYossi Fendel authored a Facebook note teaching of Genesis 48:20, I recorded a Video reflection on last week's ParshaVaYigash, and Rabbi Michael Rothbaum recorded a Facebook Live teaching of Rabbi Isaac Klein, Esther, Nehemiah, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, and Reverend Martin Luther King Jr! Two nights ago we learned with Glenn Massarano, and tonight we learn with Judy Massarano.  

Thanks to Rabbi Idit Solomon, our Torah learning during these 40 days is only getting going! She has arranged for a nightly 8pm "Lifting Up Torah" call! Each night, everyone is welcome to call in and learn Torah together for 10 minutes! The spreadsheet, listing the schedule of learning, can be found hereCall in info:  Call your Dial-In Number: (515) 739-1246  || Access Code: 521092.

(And, don't miss the chance to Learn  Megillah Trop with Rabbi Michael Rothbaum, Jan. 18, 2017, 6:30-9pm! This class is being offered in loving memory of Jonathan Bernbaum z"l.

This is what we mean to be, as an egalitarian participatory shul: Everyone is welcome to be a Torah teacher! Everyone is welcome to be a student of Torah!

Strengthening Torah Update

The CNS Ritual Committee will steward the effort being led by Scott Hanin and Laurel Bray-Hanin to mark the losses of Scott's mother and sister by supporting an effort to raise funds for a new Torah Scroll. We have begun collecting funding for this project, and welcome your participation! More on this soon. (If you'd like to learn more about this effort, please contact Amy in the shul office to schedule a meeting with me!)

And, an amazing surprise! When Sinai Memorial Chapel's executive director (our very own member) Sam Salkin learned of the Torah falling, he arranged for Sinai Memorial to loan us a Sefer Torah (the red one) while we continue our campaign to commission a new one! A huge Todah Rabbah to Sam and to Sinai Memorial!

Being Torah Update

Between last night's gathering of 70+ Bend the Arc and Netivot Shalom members to discuss political activism, tonight's meeting of he Jewish Muslim discussion group (at Pacifica Institute from 7-9p, 979 San Pablo Ave in Albany),  the Berkeley city-wide MLK Breakfast this coming Monday, and an amazing Year-in-Review message from CNS Social Action Chair Hilla Abel, it is clear that, as our shul's mission states, "we embrace Judaism's call to perfect the world."

Friends, look at the grandeur of our responses to and on behalf of Torah! Yes, many of these activities would have been our delight regardless of circumstance, but our embrace of Torah is serving well as a sacred, authentic, galvanizing framework, within which we are growing! We are learning, and strengthening, and being Torah: may this journey find us strong and safe and connected. We should be so very grateful for the gifts we are blessed to share.

With much love, 

Join Our List
CNS Mission Statement

Netivot Shalom invites you to engage in a cross-generational discovery of Jewish inspiration and purpose.

Our community is defined by the values of:
  • Belonging - we believe, as a participatory egalitarian community, that every member has a voice.
  • Learning - we provide introductory and continuing encounters with Jewish wisdom.
  • Ritual - we strive to deepen personal engagement with the sacred.
  • Justice - we embrace Judaism's call to perfect the world.
Congregation Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

Rabbi Michael Rothbaum teaches Rabbi Isaac Klein, Esther, Nehemiah, the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, and Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. What else could you ask for!

Now. Tomorrow. And the day after.

Now. Tomorrow. And the day after.
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

The inclination to find middle ground, a beautiful, noble mindset that speaks to and from within the Divine spirit in all people, is going to have to wait.

Middle ground, the art of compromise, is theoretically possible. I believe in it. After all, my faith in God can be understood as there being truths beyond me.


In a climate defined by:

- the pervasive image of a bully occupying the White House, belittling those called to hold him accountable
- the contamination of the Executive Office by a thinly disguised and a decades-long resume of reckless greed
- a Congress whose first two acts since the election have been the proposed elimination of their own Ethical Oversight and the likely stripping of millions of Americans' Healthcare (both actions taken in the middle of the night, behind closed doors)
- an emboldened American White Nationalism, with influence in the administration (manifest in the disrespect shown yesterday by Republican Congressional leaders towards prominent African American senators)
- the understandable (and also unacceptable) despair touching the hearts of millions of marginalized Americans (and millions more who look to American democracy for hope)

We must pledge, every day - Every. Day. - to resist normalization of all of this. This is not a "new normal." We are not - YOU ARE NOT - allowed to give in to despair, to see civic engagement as futile. We will, with deep respect and fervent prayer and non-violent deed, preserve and support our Democracy.

Looking for concrete actions?
-Call your elected officials when you are worried by or proud of them.
- Attend to your Houses of Worship to commune with fellow people and with God. (Attend even if you don't believe. True faith isn't about the externalized Divine - it's about the sanctity of every human being and the wonder of the world.)
- Marshal your community and family against hate when it raises its ugly head. (Do this especially when the target is someone different from you.)
- Boycott the Inauguration. Don't watch it. Pledge charity to the ACLU, Bend the Arc, Planned Parenthood, NAACP, and other holy organizations in honor of the Beloved Nation we will together rebuild.

Don't give up. You're not allowed. Build this world from #Love. Now. Tomorrow. And the day after.

We've got this, because we have each other.

Bless you all.

Jan 9, 2017

CNS Men's Shelter Dinner Report

The Men's Shelter Dinner Report 
chesed gif               
Men's Shelter Dinner, Sunday, January 1, 2017
                         When the deep purple falls over sleepy garden walls
                          And the stars begin to twinkle in the sky.....
It must have been about 5:30 PM.  We'd been working in the kitchen of the Berkeley Veterans' Memorial Building on Center Street since about 4:30. I grabbed the full compost container and took it outside to the west parking lot in order to empty it into the large green bin.  Luckily I looked up.  The clear sky was in that liminal space between twilight and night:  deep purple, three-day old crescent moon, and the evening star shining so brightly it brought tears to my eyes.  I urged the other volunteers to drop everything, come outside and look up!  Josh and a few others came out.  Helen called out that she saw the same view from her apartment window every night so she was just going to keep on chopping.  Everybody simmered down.  Back to work.
Because it was New Year's Day, we had planned to make a festive space in the dining room for the men who were residents.  Rabbi Dorothy Richman, Michael Steinman, Shai, Levi and Yael set about transforming the day room.  They put brightly colored round tablecloths on each of the tables at which the men would sit, wrapped eating utensils into holiday napkins and tied them with brightly colored ribbon.  The men noticed it right away and several made of point of thanking us for making a special effort.
Weeks prior, Dani had suggested making turkey sliders for the dinner.  It sounded like a lot of work:  45 men, 3 sliders per man:  135 sliders.  I set about locating and pricing the ingredients.  We lucked into a sale of ground turkey that really "saved our bacon".  Dani knew that Trader Joe's sold slider buns with sesame seeds.  They were quite inexpensive and TJ's told me I could return any of the unopened packages for a refund if we over-bought (we did and they did). The sliders were a combination of turkey meat, pinto beans, brown rice (successfully pre-cooked in the oven a la Vicky Kelman), and spices.  Served alongside the sliders was roasted broccoli, roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary, green salad, iced tea.  This was all put together expeditiously and with good cheer by Dani Levy-Wolins, Yonit Levy, CJ Kingsley, President Josh Gressel, Helen Schneider, and Joan Alexander.  
Ruth Konoff prepared the dessert in her home and brought it to the Shelter.  There was an audible gasp (!) when the boxes of dessert were opened.  Ruth made Cranberry-Citrus Cream Trifle placed in individual compostable cups.  The layers were lemon pound cake, sweetened whipped cream, cranberry/orange syrup, lemon curd spread, blueberries and raspberries arranged on top.  Ruth prepared enough for every resident, the resident manager, and our volunteers, too.  Some of us marked the start of 2017 with tell-tale marks of whipped cream and lemon curd on our lips.
Dani has already begun to think about the menu for the next Shelter Dinner on Sunday, February 5.   The electronic sign-up can be found at http://tinyurl.com/cnsshelterdinnersignup.
...And as long as my heart will beat,  
lover, we'll always meet
here in my deep purple dreams.
                                                                Peter DeRose, music, 1933
                                                              Mitchell Parish, lyrics 1938
Congregation Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

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